DUBAI // Cartoon character Hamdoon is the new star of a series of children's books that promote healthy living.
The Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority's TV character provides tips for nutritious meals and highlights the importance of exercise in the books, which are aimed at children aged 3 to 8 and will be distributed across Abu Dhabi to all pre-primary and Cycle 1 government schools.
"We are facing many challenges concerning food served outside schools," said Dr Arwa Al Medwahi, senior public health offer of the family and school health department at the Healthy Authority-Abu Dhabi (Haad) that worked on the books with the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec).
"In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle all family members are encouraged to follow healthy eating habits and exercise regularly."
The initiative forms part of Adec's well-being drive in state schools, and age-appropriate guidebooks on the topic will also be handed to pupils in the other grades over the next few months.
Hilal Al Marzouqi, chairman of the school canteen committee at Adec, said the advice was targeted at children and their parents.
"The awareness guides include healthy food options detailing their ingredients," said Mr Al Marzouqi. "It also advises parents about healthy food and sports activities."
The books also tell parents to ensure their children have breakfast before the school day begins, according to Dr Al Midwahi.
"Exercise and have healthy snacks comprised of fruits and vegetables," she said.
Rania Halawani, a dietician at the Medgate Centre in Dubai, said wholesome meals and snacks are very important and affect the development and concentration of children.
"It's not easy to change food habits and lifestyle at a later age," she added. "So it is very important for parents to start practicing healthy habits as early as they can with their children by being good role models themselves.
The books also suggest reducing the time spent watching TV or playing video-games, and give advice about avoiding direct exposure to the sun and heat during the summer months.